Halifax Transit needs more bus drivers
Halifax Transit is in crisis. It’s been in crisis for a year now, and it’s not getting better. There aren’t enough bus drivers. In fact, there are so few bus drivers that service is getting badly affected.
Buses are being cut on some of Halifax Transit’s core routes (the so-called Corridor routes). Outside of the core of the bus network, entire routers have been eliminated. The Dartmouth ferry used to run every 15 minutes all day. Now, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. As a whole, Halifax Transit’s network is getting less reliable than it was four years ago. And it’s all because there aren’t enough drivers and ferry operators.
Halifax Transit isn’t alone. Right now, transit agencies all over Canada and the US are facing staffing crises, and have been for over a year. It seems as though transit agencies have also been hit by the Great Resignation that’s led to serious staffing crunches all across the service and hospitality industries.
What’s the solution? Pay drivers more. Halifax Transit needs to raise the starting salary for new drivers, and it needs to raise the salary scale for all drivers. As of last year, the starting salary for a bus driver was $21/hour. That’s not nearly enough.
It is a wild understatement to say that bus drivers are highly skilled. It’s not just that they need class 2 drivers’ licences. It’s not just that they operate heavy machinery. It’s that they operate heavy machinery in the middle of the busiest public spaces in the entire region. If a bus driver makes a mistake, people can die. That’s the responsibility they have. And they carry that responsibility, all while greeting passengers, collecting fares, helping passengers in wheelchairs get settled, and giving people info about the stops and transfers they need to get where they’re going.
Can you think of another job that involves operating heavy machinery in the middle of a crowd while doing customer service at the same time? If all Halifax Transit is paying for a new bus driver is $21/hour, why on earth would anyone take on that level of stress and responsibility when they could make a lot more as a server at Boston Pizza? (No shade intended towards servers! But when a server makes a mistake, no one dies.)
There’s no way to have a transit system without drivers. And there’s no way to have drivers unless they’re paid for their skill, their care, and their professionalism. The number one way that Halifax Transit can start digging itself out of this crisis is to start paying drivers more immediately.